Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hide the freeway, create a park

Madrid's newly revealed Manzanares River and one of the new bridges

Right after World War II, political leaders wanted to create a freeway system in America that linked the nation's cities as efficiently as possible. These behemoths crossed the land making it easy to travel by car or truck from city center to city center. But the rules the governments used to raze neighborhoods to make room for these roads did not take aestheics into account. Cities were separated from their waterfronts, their rivers and lakes, neighborhoods were cut in two and scenery was destroyed. 

Seattle was one of the first to try and remedy this by building Freeway Park over Interstate five to link Capitol Hill with Downtown Seattle using a park loaded with waterfalls to hide the traffic noise. But this only hid a few blocks worth of this freeway.

Freeway Park in Seattle

Boston built the Big Dig to bury their freeway and retain access to their waterfront. Although it ended up being a huge boondoggle, it did successfully link the city back to its waterfront, opening up parks and an aquarium plus many great restaurants and hotels. Now you can walk from Faneuil Hall to the Aquarium without noticing that Interstate 93 is under your feet .

Boston waterfront
Other municipailities have taken note and are burying their own freeways to reclaim land for use as parks and investment zones. Europe has taken some big steps.

Hamburg's buried freeway
South Korea buried a freeway and revealed a river. There's a great web-site devoted to this and similar projects. Look at these before and after pictures of Seoul's renewal project:

The latest success story is happening in Madrid where the buried freeway has revealed a hidden river and miles of new park-land.

Click on this Slide show to see some stunning pictures of this new park.

Some of the advantages of this project were that people who used to stay indoors to avoid the traffic noise now walk around outside in the new parks that have been opening at a rate of one per month.

The city has been opening architecturally beautiful bridges crossing the newly revealed river.

Some of the bridges look like upturned canoes
Some of the interesting facts I learned about this project in this article were that European government projects like this are much cheaper than similar American projects and that a broke government like Spain can still do projects on this scale. There may yet be hope for some of the uglified American cities.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Banner-making machine

Ever been waiting for someone special at the airport and seen others there with those big welcome banners and wished you'd been just that little bit more organized? Help is on the way for all us procrastinators.

A vending machine that allows you to create your own banners sits at Schipol airport in Amsterdam just waiting for you to type in a greeting. You choose the size and design and the machine will print it out for you in less than three minutes.
It will create a banner in whatever language you want. The banners cost between $5 and $20 depending on size.
Congratulations to Oliver Janssen and Thibaud Bruna who invented this machine. I wish them much success. Hopefully one will be at the next airport I find myself waiting for a loved one.

Read more about this project in this NY Times article.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Laughable Headline

A recent headline from the New York Times shows just how laughable this regime is. Yeah! We're to blame for the corruption that has crippled this country for thousands of years. It's just another reason we should be packing up soon and allowing this made-up country fall into the failed state of its destiny.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Twenty-fifth excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

Reaching Londinium in eight days, they passed through Aldersgate and pushed through the throngs in the narrow streets to the river. The air was a little better there and they followed the river downstream to the Walbrook. They followed this upstream, around the old Governor’s palace to the bridge that led past the old Temple of Mithras, now a Christian church. The houses pressed in close on them again as they passed the road leading from the forum to the bridge. Finally they reached the outskirts of town and followed the Philpot creek back to the banks of the river Thames. There they found their tower.
The tower was erected on top of an arch that spanned the creek allowing boats to access the wharves inside the walls of the city. The arch was connected to the walls but was clearly built before them. The stones were older, more crooked and the tower in the center of the arch was leaning to the east. The arch itself was impressive and looked solid. It spanned fully forty feet across and rose to a height of thirty feet above the water. Judging by the marks on the walls, Gwilym figured that there was still five feet of tides left to go.
He knew that he couldn’t take his boys up into that dangerous structure so he found himself a nearby inn that would accommodate his family and Fred for the next year. There was a young girl who could look after the twins during the days so he set up a schedule with her. After dinner, he put the boys in her care and Fred and Gwilym went to the building site to meet the team. As they approached the tower they were stopped by a watchman who told them to go upstream to cross the creek, it was too dangerous here.
“My name is Gwilym and this is Fred. We’ve been sent by Sir Kay to rebuild this tower. Can you tell me where to find my team?”
“Roight, sirrah. They’re all assembled and waitin’ fer ye. They’ll be drinkin’ at the Eastcheap tavern. Roight there, sirrah.” He pointed back the way they’d come.
Gwilym and Fred made their way back past their inn to a dingy old tavern. The fireplace was leaking smoke into the place and a dozen men stood around the bar or sat on the few benches. They all looked with curiosity at the newcomers as they entered. “A round of drinks for all the workers on the Byllynsgate tower! Courtesy of King Arthur and Sir Kay! Paid for by your new Project Manager and foreman, Gwilym and Fred!”
A loud cheer greeted this announcement and the men came around to meet the two. The barman poured the drinks and Gwilym raised his in a toast. “Here’s to the safe and successful completion of this tower!” Another cheer erupted and the men drank deeply. 
Lots of questions were asked of the two men, most of which they were able to answer from the charter they’d memorized. Some questions did not have ready answers but Gwilym promised that they would find all the answers tomorrow.
As the evening drew on and some men were making motions to retire for the evening Gwilym called for attention again. “Tomorrow morning we meet here two hours after dawn.” Another cheer. “We will do a little drinking and a lot of planning. We are going to understand this project before we even move one stone. And we’re going to waste no time, moving stones all over the place.” Yet another cheer from the men, which seemed to confirm to Gwilym that they were experienced in the kind of messed up projects that he was trying to avoid. “See you all then.”
At dawn the next morning, Gwilym and Fred inspected the tower and surrounding land to make broad plans, such as what they needed to move first, where they would store the materials and where they would place the arch supports. Then they went to the tavern, paid the man in advance for the food and drink that he would provide, and set up some wood planks on the benches to make a broad table. Then Gwilym placed a bag full of smooth wood shingles, each about 3-inches square, in the center of this table. Next to this, he placed a quill in a bottle of ink.
The men started drifting in and Gwilym invited them to break their fast. He asked that they drink more water than ale, because he wanted their minds sharp for this planning session. He asked each man to introduce himself and name his skill. Gwilym wrote this information on a scroll, checking off skills present with the skills he needed based on his previous estimates. When the team was all assembled he asked if there were any more sawyers. One carpenter said he could bring a friend the next day to add to the team. Gwilym smiled and asked him to please do so.
“Gentlemen,” began Gwilym, eliciting a laugh from these rough working men. “Allow me to read to you the royal charter for this project, written by Sir Kay and signed by the High King himself, King Arthur.” This quieted the men and brought some murmurs of approval from the men as he unrolled the impressive scroll. Gwilym read the charter out loud to the men repeating certain areas twice to emphasize points.
“So now that we know what we’re doing and where and why and who will do it, we are going to determine how we are going to do it.”
Gwilym reached for the bag of small shingles, drew a rough sketch of a finished tower on the first using the ink, and placed this in the middle of the top of the bench. “This is the goal of the project. A finished tower.” He looked at the men for evidence of their understanding and received nodding heads in response.
“Now to get to a finished tower, we need to do six things. First we need to support the old bridge.” He drew a supported arch and placed this on the left of the table, slightly below the level of the previous shingle. “Then we must remove the old tower.” He drew a bridge missing a tower and placed this about a foot to the right of the previous shingle. “Then we need to remove the bridge.” He drew an empty creek channel still containing arch supports and placed this shingle a foot to the right of the last one.
“Next we build a new supported arch, a completed tower and finally remove these supports.” He drew pictures on three more shingles and distributed these to the right of the previous three, revealing the structure shown below.

“So this is the structure of how we are going to rebuild this tower.” The men surrounding Gwilym nodded in agreement and looked at each other with impressed looks on their faces. A few of the older men rolled their eyes as if to say, ‘Wow, he’s really spelling it out for us like we’re idiots.’
“If we are in agreement with the basic structure, let’s get into more detail.” Gwilym started making quick drawings or using simple, easily understood pictures to lay out the steps below the drawing of the arch missing the tower.
“While some of us clear out some space east of the tower, I will be numbering each of the stones on the existing tower so that we can put them back the way they were. Then we take the tower down in layers and place these layers next to each other in the order they came off, with the stones in the same position they held in the tower. We throw away any wood inside, it’s all rotten now.” He had laid out five shingles, all clearly understood, below the second shingle. “This is called Decomposition,” he said to his team.
“Meanwhile, one of us can be

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Women being abused in the Middle East

There go women's rights in the Middle East. For as bad was living under a dictator like Mubarak, woman are worse off now and likely to be further abused if the Muslim majority takes over. As I predicted, the gloves are off and the misogynists are going after the women.
This is just the army abusing women now. Just wait until the Muslim Brotherhood and their rabid cousins take over the country entirely and impose Shariah law on the women.

Watch the video below to see one of these women-haters beating and kicking a helpless woman who was hoping to be rescued by some of the protesters. Be careful, though. the images are quite extreme.
I'm hoping these videos will shame the government to show fairness to half their population but I am pessimistic about the process. It hasn't worked in Iran, Saudi Arabia or Yemen, why should it work in the most populous nation in the Middle East?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A new personality cult on the latest Survivor

The cast for this season, before the ringers joined
This season of Survivor is looking suspiciously like last season. It started out with a group of sixteen castaways who were quickly saddled with some veterans: Coach and Ozzie. But instead of getting rid of the obvious villain (Coach) and the likely winner (Ozzie), the civilians kept them around to lead the tribes. Did they learn nothing from Rob's steamroller?

The veterans join the tribes on day one.
Coach quickly put his evil plans in place and soon had a strong alliance of five that dominated the game. Before long, all of the five saw themselves sitting with coach at the end. Nobody has talked about the big blindside, getting rid of their leader. They all seem to be playing for second place.

Here Albert and Rick scheme to get rid of Sophie and then Brandon.

Meanwhile, Brandon thinks it's him and Albert with coach at the end and Sophie believes that it's her and Rick with coach.
Coach doesn't have to say anything. He's the cult leader and all the minions are fighting amongst themselves for his leavings.

Who is the only one remaining who can throw a monkey-wrench in the works? Sophie has him pegged. Ozzie is still at Redemption Island, picking off all the people voted off by the remaining tribe members. He is eating and sleeping well and getting healthier every day. He gets to feed and shelter and bond with each person before they leave him for the jury and is the last to hug them goodbye. He doesn't vote them off, he beats them fair and square in challenges that any of them could win. If he can make it to the final three, he has a lot of fans on the jury.

The part that really disgusts me in this game is the misuse of religion. All the prayers and talk of honesty and integrity is a mask for the worst set of back-stabbing I've seen in years. I get offended watching coach posturing and Brandon claiming that God speaks to him when it is all about coach winning a million dollars.

That poor kid, Brandon, is going to be really messed up by the time this game is over. Watch what happens to him in this tribal council.

Monday, December 12, 2011

PMP Exam aids

A lot of my friends have asked advice about passing the PMP exam. One of the best pieces of advice I have is to memorize all the Project Management Processes, all the inputs, tool and techniques and outputs for these processes. This will get you 20% of the answers on this test.

To make it easier, I developed a cheatsheet that has all these handy. I ask people to transcribe this many times until they can do it from memory. Then they can transcribe it as soon as they get into the exam room onto the sheets of scratch paper the exam provides. After that, whenever you get some crazy question along the lines of : Is Risk Identification an input to Risk Monitoring, a tool and technique in Risk Identification, an output in Risk Qualification of all of the above, one can look at the sheet you transcribed and find the answer.

Help yourself to a copy of the full sheet here

A friend of mine, Brian O'Driscoll, created a set of flashcards to help memorizing the various formulae you'll be tested on. He has agreed to let me post these here also for your use.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Project to create languages

I recently finished reading the five excellent books by George Martin showing life in the seven kingdoms of his made-up world .HBO has made these into a series that has faithfully captured the books word for word. But when the series wants to capture the characters in some of the far-flung kingdoms who don't speak the common tongue, they searched for authenticity in language. While Martin was able to write what his characters were saying in English, with the occasional Dothraki word thrown in, the TV show needed to show the characters speaking the Dothraki language with subtitles. So they needed someone to create this language.

Check out this video to see what they came up with.

Languages have been invented before: Esperanto is one that has entered common use. Tolkein invented languages for his people of Middle Earth. Linguist Marc Okrand created a Klingon language for “Star Trek III.

Read this NY Times article about the creation of the Dothraki language for Game of Thrones.
In 2007, Mr. Peterson helped found the Language Creation Society, the first professional organization for people who create languages. He won an open call to create a language for “Game of Thrones.” He submitted a 180-page proposal complete with a dictionary and audio files of spoken Dothraki judged by a double-blind committee of other language creators and finally, by the executive producers.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Twenty-fourth excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

Chapter Three – Londinium

“Two of the six stones have been placed, is the third to be placed at Canterbury?”
Merlin gave Viviane a keen look. “That is one option but we have decided to add the power of Belinus into our spell. The next stone will be placed in Londinium.”
 “But that is not on a line.”
“It is close. The power of Belinus will make up for the location being slightly off.”
“We cannot afford to make any mistakes Merlin. We have one chance to do this properly. Arthur is looking for a wife and the Christians are pushing hard for one of their own.”
“That is not a bad thing, as long as she is tolerant.”
“Too few of them are these days.”
“And Grainne? Is she still your loyal priestess?”
“She loves her son.”
“Is Gwilym the father?”
“The son has the royal blood from both sides, we must watch this one.”
“He must be fostered out.” Viviane was adamant.
“Not yet, allow him some education first. Don’t force your own experience on the girl, Viviane.”
“I had hoped for a daughter that we could raise here to follow me. What does Grainne know of Gwilym?”
“Just that he is an educated laborer.”
“Educated indeed. He is starting to ask questions.”
“Is that such a bad thing, Viviane?”

“Could you draw them a picture?” asked Merlin.

On their travels to Londinium, Fred, Gwilym and his family spent the first night at a hermitage where they shared their food in exchange for lodging. They arrived a couple of hours before dark but the boys were tired and getting cranky so Gwilym thought to give them some early rest this first day. As they sat eating with the hermit, another horse pulled up outside. Their host went out to welcome his guest. Gwilym was pleasantly surprised to see Merlin walking in. Merlin smiled at Gwilym, patted his little boys on their heads and looked seriously at Bleddyn saying, “What have you been reading this year, son?”
Bleddyn entered into a long discourse about the exciting sagas he had been hearing and proudly showed Merlin his scrolls with his careful writing on them. Merlin praised the boy for his neat script. After eating, Fred put the dozing twins to bed and set up blankets for Gwilym, Bleddyn and himself next to them. Merlin was still questioning Bleddyn who was biting through his yawns to answer him. Finally, Fred led Bleddyn to bed where they both quickly dropped off to sleep. Gwilym talked with Merlin.
“I’ve come to inspect your tower, Gwilym. How did it turn out?”
“I completed it on budget. It seems the scope changes I made weren't initially to Sir Kay’s liking but he found them useful for other purposes.”
“And what did you learn about projects this time around?”
Gwilym thought for a bit. “Having the requirements on the scope written down and

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Awesome graphic from the Times

I love it when the Times posts a great graphic. This one shows the effects of various wars, dictators, failed states and institutional oppression on world population. The graphic uses Tufte's principals of letting the data do the talking so I'll do the same. I'll present the graphic and let you see in it whatever you wish. To see it better, click on the hyperlink above. (Times)

What did I see? Whenever a population gets too big, there are wars, despots and famines that take care of this. Most of the big cuts in population took place in China. Oh, and things are definitely getting worse, the bigger the world population gets.